Tribute to Eric Heffer

Eric Heffer: A Tribute

I got to know Eric Heffer in the mid-1970s when he was elected to the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. I was working in the Party’s Research Department, located at Transport House, home of the T&GWU. Jack Jones was the T&GWU’s General Secretary. Jack is a born Liverpudlian. Eric was an adopted one; but he loved the city and its people no less for that. Indeed, when Jack Lane and I interviewed him for the L&TUR in his flat in Dolphin Square a few weeks before he died he told us that his greatest regret was that he would never see Liverpool and its people again.

Eric was a man who believed, passionately, in the goodness of ordinary working people. He fought all his political and trade union life for justice for the working class, but he was not a class warrior who despised those with whom he disagreed. On the contrary he respected his opponents and sought to win them to socialism by argument and persuasion. He followed Schumacher’s advice and did what he conceived to be the right thing and did not bother his head or burden his soul with whether he was going to be successful. That is why he found being a Minister so difficult,

He was a prodigious writer, working to the very end on his memoirs and books on Christianity, socialism and the Middle East. In all of this he was assisted by his beloved wife Doris. They were inseparable and it was clear to everyone how much they incant to one another. We felt very proud when he told us that his hook on the Middle East includes extracts from our pamphlets on the Gulf War. He read our pamphlets and the L&TUR with great interest and although he did not agree with everything we write, he was a keen supporter of the Review .

Most of the Press obituaries referred to his fiery personality. The nearest I came to witnessing it was on the bus taking NEC members and party staff from their Blackpool hotel to the Winter Gardens conference centre in 1980. Eric and I were sitting together. I noticed that he had a copy of The Spectator on – his lap and, jokingly asked him why he was reading  it. His response was to give me a stern lecture on why socialists should read Tory journals. After a while he realised that I was pulling his leg, and smiled. He was a wonderful man, we will miss him.

Dick Barry

This article appeared in July 1991, in Issue 24 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.  You can find more from the era at